Caspian Divide into Five is -?

By Alexander Yuzhnyj

Legal status of Caspian Sea is one of the most important issues for the states, located along the shores of the biggest lake in the world.

Already during many years a corresponding convention has been discussed in the format of “Caspian Five”. Without exaggeration, the breakthrough has become the last year Summit in Baku, where the views of Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Iran and Turkmenistan got closed significantly. However, there are still many disputable issues.

In order to understand the core of the matter we should take a short tour into history. Till 1991 legal status of Caspian Sea was regulated by two treaties between Iran and the Soviet Union, concluded in 1921 and 1940.

However, the situation has changed overnight, when at the shores of the pond already not two but five states located with their economic and geopolitical interests. Since then active discussions go on, related to the division of Caspian shelf resources – oil and gas, various variants of bottom and water area delimitation, division of the pond into national sectors.

The Summit in Baku, held in November last year, in this sense incites some optimism. This is reasoned by that the heads of the states have agreed to discuss and accord the width of national zone, considering 24-25 miles, including water area, on which the sovereignty of the coastal state is spread. In other words, the case is about the width and regime of national sea belt.
> Caspian Sea Map
Positive solution of this issue would be a sufficient step forward.

In this context there is definite progress. In course of the 28th Session of the special work group on development of the convention on legal status of Caspian Sea on 26th-27th of April in Baku the parties managed to promote within coordination of a number of principle moments. Russia, for example, is satisfied with the results of this round as the parties have managed to reach progress within agreement on the Convention draft provisions.

However, one can’t discount also the fact that discussions between Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Iran on the territory of South Caspian go on till now.

Here we’d like to remind, that Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan de facto have finalized the steps on sector division of the pond, having solved this issue. It appeared to be more difficult to agree with Iran and Turkmenistan, as there are many disputable fields in South Caspian. In particular, Teheran claims for promising marine structures of Azerbaijan “Araz” – “Alov” – “Sharg”. Moreover, in 2001 military ships of Iran even counteracted the activity of the research vessel of “British Petroleum” company, after which investigation operations were suspended.

Iran always takes a pretty rigid line on this issue: until new legal status of Caspian Sea is not defined, Teheran considers Soviet-Iranian treaties of 1921 and 1940 as legally valid. This was once again claimed by the special envoy of Iran on the issues of Caspian Sea Mohammad Mehdi Akhundzadeh in the end of the 28th Session of the SWG.

But here we’d like to remind, that the mentioned agreements strictly solved only the issues of shipping and fishing. By their development the issues of the division of mineral resources of the sea were not at all considered.

Today, hydrocarbons have become the corner stone.

Anyway, the lack of clear legal status harms first of all Iran and Turkmenistan. Instead of insisting, acting in a role of the same dog-in-the-manger, they need to agree, find the ways of joint development of disputable fields.

Finally the indefiniteness harms not only them but also the pond. As the job on the Convention on the legal status of Caspian sea is urgent not only for the immediate economic interests, oil and gas production, but also for solution of long-term tasks, protection of marine ecology, its preservation for future generations.

Thus, for example, regarding solution of the main issue – on width and the regime of the national marine belt the Russian President Dmitry Medvedev during the last year Summit in Baku said, that the task is not only about division of the sea. It is important to care of the preservation of unique ecology and attentive use of natural resources. In this respect, Russian leader supported the idea of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev aimed at maintenance of ecosystem of the unique pond.

- We gave the special focus to the solution of the issues, related to the use, protection and reproduction of bioresources of Caspian Sea. In this respect, considering the critical situation, related to catastrophic reduction of the sturgeon, Kazakhstan suggests to introduce temporary five-lateral moratorium for its fishing for five year minimum – noted N. Nazarbayev in particular. And this idea was supported by all the participants of the Summit.

The President of Kazakhstan talked about the urgency of grounded legal approach to the solution of the problem, which shall reinforce the struggle with poaching and preserve region’s ecology.

The initiatives and suggestions, sounded during the Summit, according to Nursultan Nazarbayev, shall be accomplished in definite documents and actions. Fruitful and constructive interaction, enhancement of friendship between peoples of Caspian coast shall promote regional cooperation to the new level.

Last year, the heads of the states expressed their hope that by the following Summit to be held this year in Russia the fundamental document – Convention on Legal Status of Caspian Sea shall be finalized. Yet only one thing can be said – the views of the parties are close. In course of the session of the work group official representatives of several states claimed that they shall try to find a final decision till the end of this year. But for a full consensus they need to hold plenty of meetings. And this system basis for negotiations has been already created. In particular, Nursultan Nazarbayev regarding the activity of the work group on the Convention development, noted that during three years from the moment of Teheran Summit in the frameworks of the named group only six meetings have been held. This is not enough. In this respect Kazakhstani leader suggested to authorize the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the “Five” to hold the sessions of work groups not less than five times annually. And this is very important, that this schedule is being considered. After the session in April in Baku, another meeting shall be held in Moscow. Then in Kazakhstan. Such a high dynamics according to the experts allows hoping that by another Summit pre-Caspian states shall achieve a serious agreement.
Translated by EuroDialogueXXI from CIS News